DNR can study ‘dust’
Thursday, July 10, 2014 10:07 AM
If someone asks, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would be willing to conduct a traffic study on Canoe Valley and Middle Hesper roads.
Joe Sanfilippo of the DNR visited with the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors Monday following an inquiry by the Board.
At last week’s meeting, the Board instructed County Engineer Lee Bjerke to develop specifications for a safety study of Canoe Valley Rd. and Middle Hesper Rd. from 377th St. to Meadowlark Rd.
Concerns about speed and dust on those roads were raised during recent discussions of a conditional-use permit for the Quandahl Farm/Wiltgen Construction Company’s sand quarry off Canoe Valley Rd. Two weeks ago, the supervisors approved the permit that allows limestone rock to be crushed at the quarry15 days a year.
Sanfilippo said his agency is willing to conduct a traffic study of the area at no cost to the county if it receives a complaint from a county citizen or is requested to do so by a government entity, such as the county.
“If we have a fugitive dust complaint on any gravel road, whether its from traffic from a quarry or county park or otherwise, we ask the caller for the address and send an environmental specialist out there from our Manchester office to conduct a traffic study,” said Sanfilippo.
He said the DNR representative will park at a specified spot on the road and count the vehicles which go by for the period of one hour, based on the busiest time of day for traffic on the road.
Sanfilippo said the specialist looks for dust that crosses the property line. If at least 30 cars pass the designated location in an hour, the DNR considers it a problem.
“Usually when a vehicle passes, it takes about two minutes for the dust to settle. If you get to 30 vehicles, the dust never settles,” he said, adding the person monitoring the dust doesn’t consider type of vehicles, only the number.
Sanfilippo said if the DNR determines a location has a problem with fugitive dust, the county will be contacted and given about a week to come up with a plan of action.
The county would then be responsible for enforcing its plan of action to mitigate fugitive dust in the area.
He said possible solutions include speed reduction, a road embargo or applying water or tree sap to the road.
He added reducing the speed limit and restricting the weight on the road will reduce the amount of traffic on the road.
“If neither of these reduce the traffic count to something acceptable, you try something else,” he said.
“If we find a problem, we suggest you take care of it. I think there’s some liability there. If you have unsafe roads, you could have some accidents out there because of dust,” he said.
Board Chairman John Logsdon said he hopes people employ some common sense when traveling the county’s roads.
“You can’t go out there and drive 55 mph down a road following a truck going 60 and expect anything but something bad to happen. You have to drive for the road conditions. It’s not as if the county is liable for someone who has no common sense. It’s your life,” said Logsdon.
When Sanfilippo said one effective solution to fugitive dust is chemical treatment, Supervisor Dean Thompson asked if he had any information on using organic versus inorganic chemicals.
Sanfilippo responded tree sap can be a good solution, but said he will check with the Iowa Department of Transportation for comparative data. Planning and Zoning Chair Wendy Stevens next said the county is trying to deal with a dangerous situation, including how to deal with people on bike trails near gravel roads.
Sanfilippo said in his opinion, a situation where a bike trail crosses a gravel road needs to be dealt with through paving, dust control or an overpass.
“The county or state has to take responsibility there,” he said.
Stevens next asked about the idea that the people who are responsible for raising the dust should be responsible for controlling it.
Sanfilippo said that paradigm has been employed in Black Hawk County, where operators are required to abate the dust.
“That seems to work out pretty well,” he said.
Bjerke said he has a call in to the DOT regarding options for a safety study, which would be more in-depth and would include characteristics of the road, the type of traffic, the percentage of truck traffic, traffic volumes and peak travel times.